Navy tradition holds that the first entry in a ship’s deck log each year must be in verse.
The tradition began at least before World War II. Maybe longer ago. Even naval historians are unsure.
Some of the poems are preserved in anthologies by various ship associations. All are kept in official archives along with the rest of the logs.
Some are in rhyme, many in free verse. Riffs have been known on Edgar Allan Poe. Some of the poems done when a ship is at its homeport show a certain wistfulness at standing watch on New Year’s Eve while other people are ashore frolicking.
For the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, the poetic task fell to Quartermaster 3rd-class Jonathan Lee Wenrich, of Philadelpha.
From its homeport at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, the Vinson is now in the northern Persian Gulf. Its warplanes are striking Islamic radical targets in Iraq and Syria.
Navy regulations insist that the log entry note the location of the ship and the condition of the sea. As such, Wenrich’s entry notes that the Vinson is in the gulf “under a waning moon with many a star to be seen.”
Wenrich studied at the University of the Arts before joining the Navy. His poem carries a Longfellow-esque tone of discipline and patriotism, reading, in part:
Through heavy winds
and pitch and list
our thoughts encompassed
by those we miss.
As hours turn to days
and days to months
we think of the place
we came from once.
We think of the people
of our country.
We think of how thankful
we are to be free.
As we continue to send
Strength From the Sea.
The final line is an English translation of the ship’s Latin motto, Vis Per Mare.